DANCE WITH FIRE
My phone buzzed, a signal that I just received a text message. I prayed it was a bank credit alert. Tomorrow was valentine’s day and unless a miracle occurred, my babe was sure to break up with me.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY IN ADVANCE BABY, the text read. Ifeoma wasn’t subtle at all. I couldn’t escape this. The threat was there for all to see; no valentine, no baby.
I went to my messages, to check my account balance. N2800. I laughed to myself. If I spent this tomorrow, I would still get the boot. Two thousand eight hundred was not enough to impress a girl, recession or not, it simply wasn’t. I thought of the many ways to make money before the D-day. Even as I racked my head, I knew it was late. I shouldn’t have paid my house rent the week before.
My flatmate, Dafe, strolled into the room. He dropped a well packaged box on the bed. I shifted closer to admire the package.
‘Sam, abeg take am easy’, he grumbled ‘na Amaka valentine package be that’.
I felt my chest constrict. Dafe had done what I couldn’t do.
‘Wetin dey inside na, and how much e cost? ‘ I asked in a low voice.
He looked me over before he answered
‘1 bundle of Indian hair, 1 Dolce and Gabana perfume, 2 pairs of shoes and a matching handbag’.
I collapsed to the bed. He didn’t have to tell me, the box alone looked expensive. Dafe was the man and I was the boy.
I met Dafe 2 years ago but we only became flatmates 3 months ago. His folks weren’t rich but he always had money. In fact he was part of the reason ifeoma still dated me. Everyday before he left for school, he always dropped five hundred naira at home for upkeep. It was that five hundred I usually used to keep ifeoma happy. I never asked where he got the money from, not from lack of curiosity but for the mere fact that I didn’t want to upset the source of my wellbeing.
I looked at him now as he talked about his plans for tomorrow. He was going to take Amaka to a Chinese restaurant and after that, they would come home. He would hand her the box and after much exclamations and dancing, they would then proceed to make valentine love. To back his words, he bought 4 packs of trojan condom. He threw one to me. Just incase I got lucky. I threw it back at him. I hadn’t used the pack he gave me three weeks ago. A poor man deserved no box. Giving ifeoma recharge cards only did not merit sex and I knew that.
‘Dafman, help your boy na’, I looked at him ‘even if na 5k, make I take arrange ify’.
He laughed for some minutes
‘Sammy, you too dull’. He was about to hurl insults now
‘Wetin 5k wan do for u?’ He continued ‘ the money wey remain for my hand na 50k wey I wan give Amaka tomorrow, if I commot am 5k, e no go be round figure again’.
I was momentarily weak. He was about to hand my 6 months allowance to his girlfriend on St Valentine’s account. Indeed, Dafe had 2 heads. We were not mates.
‘You na my guy sha,’ he threw me a card ‘call that number, tell am Dafe send u’.
Hmmm, I thought to myself. Maybe Dafe wanted to let me in on his business
‘Wetin the guy dey do,’ I asked
‘Na blood agent’ he replied
I wasn’t understanding. ‘Blood agent’. I silently promised myself not to call the agent. Ifeoma was beautiful, but I wasn’t about to get killed for her box. Dafe saw my hesitation and clarified further.
‘He dey work for hospital. You get plenty blood and you no dey use am do anything. You fit donate two pints of blood. Him go give u like 15k. Shey na O negative u be na. Your blood dey move market’.
I heard 15k and jumped. Two pints of blood and ifeoma would spend the rest of the weekend with me. I looked up and thanked God. I called the agent immediately. He asked me to come to Zenith clinic ASAP. They were in need of my blood now.
On my way out, I grabbed the trojan condom he had earlier thrown and I sent Ifeoma a text.
DANCE WITH FIRE
The clinic was located on the posh side of town, so I had to take a taxi there. It took me about thirty minutes to flag a taxi down.
‘Zenith clinic’, I shouted as soon as the taxi driver rolled his window down
‘3000 naira’, he responded after he had sized me from head to toe
My friend Innocent once told me that there was a difference between looking rich and being rich. This taxi driver thought I was rich. I was wearing a TM shirt on an LV pants coupled with a Yeezy’s footwear. And was also heading to one of the most expensive clinics in town. But it was all packaging. The only thing that belonged to me was my body. The rest was Dafe’s.
‘Oga, na 500 dem dey take go Zenith, abeg if you no dey collect, just shift dey go’ the change of accent stunned him
‘Enter, if you go pay 600’ he replied, his disappointment reflecting in his voice.
As the taxi moved, I thought about Ifeoma. She was the world and more to me. I met her in a keke on my way to the market. She wasn’t the most beautiful girl in the keke, but there was something attractive about her. There was no need talking to her because that would mean paying her transport fare, so I was content stealing side glances. But as God would have it, we were destined to speak. She was about to alight at a junction when she discovered she had forgotten her purse back at home. Her face was creased with worry . The keke driver started to harass her. She had to pay the 50 naira. I couldn’t blame him. That money could buy me a hot okpa in this recession. She looked like she would burst into tears any moment when I stepped in.
‘Oga, you no get human feelings o’, I paid him the 50 naira and also gave her another fifty to find her way back. She was beyond grateful.
As the keke sped on, I realised my foolishness. I didn’t even ask her name. I asked the girl seated next to me if she knew her, she shook her head. I had just thrown a hundred naira away. I went about my business in the market, momentarily forgetting about her. After shopping, I boarded another keke home. The keke didn’t get full so he stopped at several junctions to pick passengers. As he approached the junction ifeoma alighted, lo and behold, there she was, flagging us down. She got in, and as soon as she saw me, she smiled in a way that made my groins tighten.
‘It’s you again’, she went on ‘Thank you for earlier, God bless you’.
‘And you too dear’, I started to smile sheepishly.
The rest they say is history.
Ifeoma deserved a special valentine. I thought of the places I could take her to. Romeo’s Diner would cost a fortune, but she deserved it. I wished the agent would ask for three pints of blood. Fiteen thousand would do a lot, but twenty two thousand could do more. Dafe was right, I needed to be street smart. Book smartness was not enough for survival. One needed a special skill set to adapt. To Dafe, recession was only a word. He wasn’t bothered by government policies and his girl never witheld sex from him.
I thought about sex and I felt my blue balls. They were heavy. Masturbation alone didn’t help anymore. It had been long. Ifeoma didn’t intentionally withold sex from me. Since I stopped bringing money, she stopped at kissing. And it wasn’t like I didn’t deserve it. But things were about to change. Tomorrow would be fire, I smiled as i reached to feel the trojan in my back pocket. I planned to use up all the condoms Dafe had given me.The drivers honk brought me out of my day dream.
‘Wetin you dey think dey smile like that’ he asked
‘Oga dat one no concern you’, I stretched and paid him.
I stood at the gate of Zenith clinic and I admired the beauty of riches. The landscape was beautiful. One could actually host a wedding reception here. The building itself spelt fortune. Paupers like myself wouldn’t get a cleaning job here. I called the blood agent and informed him I was standing by the gate.
Some minutes later, a heavily built man approached the gate. He looked scary and I knew immediately he was the blood agent.
‘Are you Sam’, he pointed at me while speaking.
‘Yes sir’, I replied
‘You are very stupid’, his voice boomed.
‘I asked you to come immediately and it is now you are coming’, he turned his back on me
‘Just get out ,I don’t need your blood again’
I wasn’t sure I heard him properly. Did he just say he didn’t need my blood anymore? I looked at him walking away from me, I thought of ifeoma, the fifteen thousand naira, Romeo’s Diner and the pack of trojan in my back pocket and I fainted.
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DANCE WITH FIRE
The thing I hated most about fainting was that it was brief. The loss of consciousness was usually short and one recovered quickly. I had wanted it to last for hours. Anything to spare my blushes. As I recovered from the syncope, I peeped at the blood agent as he kept on walking even after people rushed to me as soon as I had hit the floor. I guess it was presumptuous to expect sympathy from a person that dealt in human blood. I willed my body to get up, my eyes to fully open, if only to convince my sympathisers that I was ok. I couldn’t. That was till someone splashed water on me
‘Thank God, he is alive’, they all chorused. Of course I was alive and I was pissed. I looked round to see if I could catch the culprit that splashed the water. I saw him still holding the bucket. Grinning like someone who just performed a successful brain surgery
‘Oga, why you pour me that kind water na?’ I struggled to contain my tears
‘No be sprinkle you suppose sprinkle am for person wey faint’, I continued ‘Now see as you don wet me’.
‘Abeg, no vex. The way you take faint fear me ‘, he replied
‘If say you no wake now, na for inside clinic you for see yourself and one night there na 10 thousand’, he chipped in.
I pulled my wet self up, took one look at the beautiful clinic and started walking away. It would forever be known as the spot where my hopes and dreams were dashed. I had wasted five hundred naira coming here. Now, I had to walk home. Ifeoma would certainly break up with me. The text message I sent to her while leaving the house would fuel her speculations. I wished I could unsend it. I was no longer looking forward to tomorrow. This agent, in one swoop, destroyed my dream, my aspirations and my whole life. I prayed to God to make him bleed out for unknown reasons and then need my blood. He would call me to beg for a pint, but I would charge him a million naira. That would make my blood the most expensive in history. I smiled for the first time, it would even cost more than the blood of Jesus.
I called Dafe. The earlier I told him of my misfortune, the better for me. I hoped he had a plan B
‘Sam, why you dull this, Agent call me say na now u reach the clinic’, he started without saying hi
‘Guy, I for fly, traffic been dey and you sef sabi say bike no dey reach that side’, I replied
‘Where you dey like this?’
‘Sha do quick come back, ifeoma dey wait you for here,’ he added and then cut the call
I subconsciously screamed. What was ifeoma doing in the house today of all days. Tomorrow was valentine. I wanted to postpone the break up till tomorrow, and now she was waiting for me.
With blinded rage, I kicked something on the floor. It didn’t feel like a stone so I cleared my mind and looked for what I had just kicked. It was a mobile phone, not just any mobile phone, but an IPhone. I looked around twice before I bent and picked it. I walked faster before anyone around would notice what just happened. As I left democracy estate, I slowed my pace and took a close look at what I had just picked. It was a gold plated IPhone 6s. It looked brand new. I pressed the home button and the screen illuminated. It had no secret pass code or thumbprint lock. I smiled to the heavens. This was a sign, but I didn’t understand it yet.
I was in a dilemma. This was a win on so many levels. I could wait for the owner of the the device to call it, and then ransome it for say fifty thousand naira, or I could head to GSM village and sell it now for at least a hundred grand. There was also the option of wiping the phone, throwing away the sim card, and giving the phone to ifeoma as a valentine gift. Of the three choices, the last one was the craziest. If I handed her an iPhone 6 as a valentine gift,come her birthday, she would expect a car or a house. I was not ready to die under the weight of such expectations. I decided to give the owner thirty minutes to notice his phone was gone and reach out, or I would call okechukwu in GSM village and notify him of a business deal.
As I waited for the owner to call, something in my chest kept poking me. It felt like my conscience but I wasn’t in the mood. I knew I was supposed to head to a police station and drop it off, but what was the guarantee that the police man won’t consider my earlier three options. In this economy, no one could be trusted, especially not the police. My conscience could go to hell, at least i didn’t steal the phone. If the blood agent had a conscience, I wouldn’t be in this situation. I would be at home eating ifeoma’s meal, in anticipation of her dessert.
My phone rang, it was ifeoma. I couldn’t risk picking up. What if the iPhone owner decided to call at that time. As if to justify my reasoning, the iPhone beeped. A text had arrived. It wasn’t a call, but it would suffice. I opened the message icon
THE MONEY IS ENROUTE. WAIT AT MUD GATE. THE COURIER IS UNKNOWN. CODE WORD IS STEVE ALPHA.
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DANCE WITH FIRE
As I read the text, the tension in me heightened. There was a sense of foreboding that something big and brutal was about to happen to me. It was obvious that the text was not for me. I had no business being with the phone. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that the universe wanted me to have it. Everything that had happened today led me to that exact spot. From ifeoma’s text to Dafe’s oppression and then to the blood agent’s hostility. I was chosen to pick this IPhone, it could have been any other person but I was the one that kicked it. So I made up my mind. If life gave you lemons, you make lemonade, not return the lemons. I was going to Mud gate.
I read the text again for the exact instructions. I was book smart so I knew the only way to survive this was to do as they instructed. Wait at mud gate it said. I knew mud gate. It was initially called mud street because it housed buildings made of mud. It wasn’t quite long that the local government chairman commissioned the gate and some shops alongside it. It then became one of the busiest landmarks on the mainland. The best shawarma and suya could be gotten at mud gate; I had bought suya for ifeoma from there to celebrate our anniversary. I thought about all these and the presence of law enforcement agents there, and decided I would be safe there.
It is often said that the dog that will get lost will not listen to the whistle of the Hunter. My conscience was battling me big time. I wished I could reach into myself and kill it. It wanted me to return the phone back to the exact spot I picked it and go back home. It was unserious, there was a better chance of me swallowing the phone than returning it. I had to focus. The money is enroute the text had said, if I didn’t show up, the unknown courier would take it. I sure needed the money. My phone buzzed again. Ifeoma was calling, I picked this time
‘Baby where are you?, her sonorous voice called out
‘I’m coming home dear, I just want to pick some stuffs up’, I replied
‘Don’t pick anything, just come back’, she went on
‘Dafe told me about the blood agent and your worries about tomorrow’, she paused
Shit, Dafe talked too much for a man
‘Sammy, pls come back. I don’t know where you got the idea that I would break up with you if we didn’t celebrate valentine’,
‘Babe, ignore Dafe, I went to see Innocent, I will soon be back,’ I promised her.
‘I love you, valentine or not’, she whispered before she cut the call.
The call unleashed the beast in me. I became a courageous lion. She loved me, even though I couldn’t provide. It made me mad. I had to suprise her and Dafe tomorrow. What gave him the right to tell her about our business? He just wanted to mock me, to show her the desperation in me. Maybe he wanted to snatch ifeoma from me. I had caught him numerous times staring at my baby. That was the thing about rich dudes, they were never satisfied, always wanting more. The only thing I wanted more than the money now, was to punch Dafe. He would probably beat me up, but then, I would have fufilled my heart’s desire.
I had gotten to Mud gate. It was busy as usual. Guys and girls celebrating pre valentines. All shops were occupied. I looked for an empty chair and hurriedly grabbed one. A guy glared at me. He was reaching for the same chair. I sat and pulled out the IPhone. Another text had entered as I was talking to ifeoma.
COURIER AT DESTINATION. BLACK TOYOTA CAMRY PLATE NUMBER KJA-187AA. ALLOW TWENTY MINUTES BEFORE APPROACHING. GET INTO VEHICLE, SAY CODE WORD, COLLECT MONEY AND EXIT VEHICLE. HEAD TO THE MEETING POINT. DO NOT ENGAGE COURIER!
Why did the sender have to write in block letters. It looked as if the message was screaming. I looked at the time I got the message, 8:15pm and now it was 8:40 pm. Shit, more than twenty minutes had elapsed. I got up to scout for the vehicle. I saw it almost immediately. Parked across from where I was seated. I approached quietly. I was happy it was parked in open view. He wouldn’t be able to shoot me and get away with it. Before opening the door, I gave myself a minute to run but I couldn’t and I opened it. I quickly did the sign of the cross. I was nervous. I sat and realised I wanted to pee. Asking for permission to pee would have been absurd.
‘Code word’, the driver spoke after some seconds
Shit again. I knew he wasn’t supposed to ask. The text explicitly said do not engage. I was to do all the talking.
‘Code word’, he repeated again.
He had talked twice. Didn’t he get the same text message. It was getting obvious that this mean looking courier was not book smart. He couldn’t follow simple instructions. Shit, I was blabbering. It was a sign that I was nervous. A nervous Sam was a stupid Sam. I tried to calm myself by breathing deeply, but I couldn’t, it was then it dawned on me that I had forgotten the damn code word.
DANCE WITH FIRE
How could I have forgotten the code word? This was a spiritual attack obviously and I blamed mama Tito. After the public feud she had with my mother, she became the symbol of everything bad that happened to my mother. If she lost her footing, it was mama Tito and if mosquitoes decided to bite at night, of course mama Tito must have sent them. It didn’t make sense when my mother blamed her, but it did now. Mama Tito had done this. I would die in poverty. There was nothing preventing this unknown courier from emptying his loaded gun in me.
The courier turned to look at me properly. The light rays of the shops also illuminated his face. I could distinctly see his features. His wasn’t handsome and he reminded me of someone; Steve.
Yes, Steve! I had finally remembered. I cleared my throat and tried to imitate his huskiness
‘Steve Alpha, the code is Steve Alpha’.
He kept on staring at me as if I was an enigma. He was trying to figure me out.
‘Did the cat hold your tongue before’, he quizzed
‘I had to wait for those two cops leaning on that car to move’, I pointed to the guys walking
He turned around to look at them. My nervousness was gone, I could think clearly now.
‘Where is my package?’, I inquired after he had acknowledged my code word.
He looked up at me again, while reaching for the back seat. He pulled a black briefcase.
‘The lock code is 5543, do you want to inspect it’?
That was a trick question. The text said nothing about inspecting it. This man had some doubts but I wasn’t about to clear it for him.
‘No, that would be all’, I reached out and shook his hands.
‘It was nice doing business with you’, he muttered as soon as I stepped out of the vehicle, then he drove off.
I had finally succeeded. I looked at the time, it was 9:30pm. I brought out my phone. I had put it on silent before entering the car. I had done the right thing. Seven missed calls from ifeoma. Imagine having to get shot because my phone kept ringing out loud. I called her. She picked on the first ring
‘Baby where are you?’ Her voice laced with concern
She didn’t have to worry anymore, I was coming back made.
‘Sweet, I’m walking home’
‘Enter bike na’
‘I’m almost home’
‘I love you Sam’
‘I love you more baby’.
I couldn’t go home. Not yet at least. The text had said I should head to the meeting point. I wasn’t planning on going there but I had to know the content of the briefcase. I surveyed my surrounding and noticed I was close to a filling station. I all but ran there and asked the attendant for the toilet. I was purging I told him. He took pity on me and pointed out the rest room. As I closed the door, I felt safe. I put the briefcase on the toilet lid and turned the scrambled nubers to 5543. There was a click and the briefcase opened. I gasped. I had hit the jackpot at my first attempt. Staring back at me, was a case full of bundles of the hundred dollar note. I counted the bundles, twenty in all. I had never felt a dollar before not to talk of hundred dollars, but now, I had twenty bundles of them. Assuming a bundle held hundred notes, twenty bundles was equivalent to two hundred thousand dollars. I didn’t know when I burst out singing:
Today, today, my levels don change, my levels don change
Mama Tito, my levels don change, my levels don change
Brother Dafe, my levels don change, my levels don change
Poverty leave me o, my levels don change
I was still dancing with my handkerchief when the attendant knocked on the door
‘Bros, I hope say you never die o’,
‘Chairman, I don finish, make I flush toilet’, I replied.
I carefully picked a bundle and took out five notes. Five hundred dollars. With the exchange rate, that would amount to over two hundred thousand naira. It should be sufficient for valentine. I flushed the toilet and picked the briefcase. On my way out, I gave the attendant five hundred naira. He was full of gratitude. He even called me oga. I laughed, boy Sammy was now an oga. I called okechukwu.
Okechukwu was the go to guy for anything you needed. He was forever dependable and I could trust him. I needed to change my dollars to naira and he was the only one that could have the numbers of the mallam that changed currency.
He picked on the second dial
‘Okey venture’, I hailed him
‘Sammy akwukwo’, he hailed back
He was fond of calling me Sammy akwukwo because I had once helped him to fill his tax forms and open an account.
‘Okey, my guy wan change dollars, you get connect?’
‘Sammy, why I no go get connect’, he replied
He proceeded to call out the number, he wasn’t ok texting it. I hailed him again and said goodnight. Then I called the number he left me. The man asked me to come now. I had learnt my lesson, I flagged down a bike.
The exchange didn’t waste time. The man gave me one hundred and ninety seven thousand. I dashed him the five hundred, he called me oga. Oga Sam, it had a nice ring to it. I asked him to give me a bacco bag. As I got outside, I emptied the contents of the briefcase into the bacco bag and I discarded the brief case. I went into the provision store and bought some stuffs; the stuff I promised ifeoma I was picking. As soon as I was done, I stepped outside. My phone beeped again. I brought it out, it wasn’t mine, it was the IPhone. Another text
AT THE MEETING POINT WITH THE SQUAD. PROCEED CAREFULLY. RIVAL SQUAD HAS BEEN TIPPED.
ON MY WAY TO MEETING POINT. FLAT TIRE OCCURRED. RIVAL SQUAD TIPPED? CONSIDER RESCHEDULING AT ONCE.
Warri boy no fit carry last. Meeting point ko, meeting point ni. I switched off the IPhone. Any attempt to reach me would prove abortive. I flagged down a bike, at last, I was going home to Ifeoma.
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DANCE WITH FIRE
I got home at exactly 10:15pm and for the first time in many months, I felt alive. Innocent always said money gave you a certain level confidence. I now believed. The contents of my bacco bag gave me a new sense of purpose in life. I could do anything, become anyone, go anywhere and still be original. Money inspired greatness. I knocked on my door. My knock wasn’t rushed, I had all the time. There was no need to anymore, for I was rich. I knocked a little more. Seemed like Ifeoma had slept. I tried my key, and the door opened. I quickly scanned the room and saw no sign of ifeoma. I went to my closet and dropped the bacco bag into a travel bag that contained books. It was the only bag that ifeoma had no concern with, so I was sure my money would be undiscovered there.
I stood at the entrance of my room and called ifeoma. Her phone was ringing in the opposite direction. Dafe’s apartment. I was full of rage. This was some part of his ploy to steal my girlfriend. I banged profusely on his door. He opened it and I walked in. I saw Amaka and ifeoma seated on the floor, admiring the contents of the Amaka’s valentine box. Dafe probably couldn’t wait to show off. He was supposed to give Amaka the box the next day. That would have been the prequel to their love making.
‘Hey, Sam is here’, Amaka declared.
No greetings, no respect for my name, just Sam.
Ifeoma got up, she was visibly upset. Dafe’s plan had worked. But he was in for a shocker.
‘Sam, where you go since na?’ Dafe inquired
‘Omo ehn, I say make I reach Innocent bung’
‘But Inno bin come here find u na’
Which useless casting was this. But Warri was Warri finally, I couldn’t fall hands.
‘Yes, na why I too waste time. I dey wait am for him bung. Him turn up last minute’, I replied
Dafe looked like he didn’t believe me, but he had no choice. I took my babe into my room and I secured the door.
I turned her around to kiss her. She held back
‘Sammy, be truthful, where were you?’
‘Ify why would I lie to you?’, I went on ‘I went to see Innocent. But if you choose to believe Dafe over me, that’s fine’.
‘I was worried, especially after he informed of your blood business. It’s cute that you wanted to sell your blood for me’, she said smiling
‘Ify, I would do anything for you. Maybe except die sha’, I laughed out
She joined me in the laughter, that was when I kissed her. The kiss rattled my core. It was a well deserved reward for what I had been through earlier. I broke the kiss and led her to the bed. I showed her the provision I had picked from the store. I also brought out the money I had earlier changed and showed her.
‘Baby, all for you’, and I kissed her again
‘Sammy where did you get this from?’, she looked me into my eyes, her eyes laced with worry
‘I hope you didn’t steal it’
I got angry immediately. Did amaka ask if Dafe stole whatever she gave him?
‘Ify so I’m now a thief? If I buy something for you, it means I stole it? Welldone’ I got up from the bed angrily and entered the kitchen. She joined me there
‘I didn’t call you a thief, but I’ve never seen you with such amount of money. If you got it honestly, I’m happy for you. But if you didn’t, Sammy please return it. I don’t want you to be in trouble on my account’.
I pulled her to myself. I planted another kiss on her firm lips. They tasted of milk, perhaps she had tea for dinner. There was no need to bother her with what had happened. It was all in the past. I tore open her nightshirt, the rustle of the material giving way made me hard. She gasped. I wasn’t bothered, I could afford ten of it. She wasn’t wearing a bra. I pushed her to the kitchen door as I grabbed her swollen mounds. It was what I loved about Ifeoma; she had the body of goddess. Every part of her was rightly proportioned. She tore open my shirt and pinched my nipples. She knew me well. It worked like magic; an instant erection. She put her hands around my neck as I opened my trouser. Then I placed my hands beneath her bare buttocks and lifted her up. My baby wrapped her feet around my waist. I gave a savage thrust and that elicited another gasp, a sign of unbelievable pleasure.
We went on that way, climbing higher, until we both reached a shattering climax. She cried out in ecstasy. Take that Dafe, valentine had come a day early.
As we lay on the bed spent, I thought of everything that happened earlier. In a way, it was worth it. Ifeoma slept off almost immediately. I had to shower still. I went back to my closet to inspect my money, it was as I left it. I moved to the window, the night was beautiful. I looked down at the cars parked in front of my house. Dafe’s silver Mercedes shined brightly. I made a mental note to buy one for myself. The car parked next to it looked vaguely familiar. It reminded me of the courier’s car. I took a closer look at it, same colour and model. What were the chances that the car had followed me home? I wrote it off as a mere coincidence as I stepped into the bathroom to have my bath.
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DANCE WITH FIRE
There’s an igbo proverb that says that if a snake fails to show its venom, little kids will use it in tying firewood. Dafe’s knock woke me from sleep. He had come to give me the five thousand naira I had requested for yesterday. I looked at the stretched arm offering the money and I laughed out loud. If he had given me this money yesterday, I wouldn’t have gotten my briefcase of dollars. God truly worked in mysterious ways.
‘Baba, no worry again, I no need am’, I said
‘Hmmm, you sure?’, he was shocked. It was the first time I have had cause to turn his money down. And rightly so, because I was no longer his charity case. He started to return his room. I followed him, I wasn’t done. I walked in and Amaka looked up. As it was last night, she offered no greeting. It was obvious that whoever brought amaka up did a bad job at it.
‘Hey babe, I don’t know Dafe’s plan, but if you want to go to Nora’s spa with Ifeoma, I would pay. That’s my valentine gift to you.’
I walked out without giving her a chance to reply. The silence and astonishing looks on their faces was a welcome surprise. Happy valentine’s day people.
Ifeoma was already up and was cleaning the house as I walked in. She was in a good mood, and I was about to make it better.
‘Happy valentine’s day honey’, I hugged her
‘Same to you’, she blushed
‘Today would be the beginning of something new in our lives’
I had stopped smiling. She had to understand that I was no longer poor, without questioning the intricate details. I tried to be convincing.
‘One of the deals I invested money in has started paying up’
‘Which deal’, she asked
‘Baby, don’t worry yourself about that, the only thing I want you to know is that our levels have changed’,
‘Sammy, hope it’s not fraudulent’, she went on ‘things weren’t so bad before’,
I hushed her with a kiss. Indeed, like hell things weren’t so bad before, as if I could take the next step if I didn’t have millions in my closet. I pulled out fifty thousand naira and gave it to her.
‘Go to Nora’s spa and take Amaka with you. If this money is not enough, you call me, ok?’
‘What will we be doing in that expensive spa’, she asked.
This one was starting to be a bother. Ifeoma had to learn to adjust immediately or I start the search for her replacement.
‘Baby, do whatever you see other women doing there’, and that signaled an end to her questions.
Some hours later, I took them downstairs and hailed a cab for them. This strengthened my resolve to get a car as soon as possible. Oga Sammy should have a car. As the taxi drove off, I walked back into my compound. Dafe’s car was still packed where it was, but the black car that was next to it wasn’t anymore. I was instantly relieved. I got back into my room and secured my door. I brought out my bacco bag and counted the whole money again. I still couldn’t believe my fortune. I got up to bring out a note pad in order to map out my investment strategy. It was chiefly the reason I sent Ifeoma to the spa. I almost stepped on the iPhone in that process. I picked it up and looked at it. I wondered who the real owner was and why he hadnt called to retrieve it. Curiosity got the better of me and I put on the phone.
As soon as it had powered on, it started buzzing. There was an influx of text messages, whatsapp and BBM notifications. I clicked on the text message icon. The last message on the log would have sent shiver down the spine of the poor Sammy. But looking at the money my tiled floor, i was insulated.
LAST WARNING. BRING PACKAGE TO MEETING POINT. DO NOT MESS WITH SCORPION. DEVIATION FROM PLAN WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.
I clicked on the whatsapp icon. Several chats from scary looking code names. I decided to read the most recent. It was from dragon. Really, dragon!
Dragon: illegal, where you dey? Scorpion has called for your head. How long do you think you can live for after stealing from him.
I decided to play along. This dragon sounded like an aquaintance. Apparently my name was Illegal, it sounded tough at the time, ‘Sammy aka Illegal’. It had a nice ring to it
Illegal: courier has been stalking me ever since I collected the briefcase, I didn’t want to lead him to the meeting point. I will be underground till it’s safe.
His reply came almost immediately.
Dragon: consider courier extinct. Would inform scorpion of your predicament. Lay low, you would hear from me soon. And do not put off your phone again.
I laughed out uncontrollably as I put off the phone. These dudes were acting James Bond in Nigeria. Consider courier extinct. I couldn’t contain the laughter. I walked to my window and looked down again. This time I saw the black car and the the courier getting out of it.
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DANCE WITH FIRE
The sight of the courier sent shivers down my spine. No amount of money could insulate that. I looked at his face properly. It was big and fat. His eyes were restless, scanning the whole building, looking for me. He had such broad shoulders and his arms looked like it packed a mean punch. I stepped away from the window while I contemplated what to do. I had two options; tell Dafe or inform dragon of courier’s presence. I chose the latter, Dafe would start throwing jabs and I had no time for such. I brought out the IPhone and put it on. Another influx of messages, which I all ignored. I quickly composed a text.
COURIER SIGHTED AT DYNASTY LODGE. POSES A THREAT TO MY LIFE AND SCORPION’S PACKAGE. ELIMINATE TARGET.
I clicked send. After the message had delivered, I discovered my foolishness. I realised I did not think things through. In a bit of a panic, I had just informed dragon and his cohorts of my actual location. I knew I was totally screwed. I went through the messages I had earlier ignored. The last one read
SEND THE COORDINATES TO YOUR EXACT LOCATION. HELP WILL BE ON THE WAY. CODE WORD IS STEVE JOHNSON.
I had to pee. I rushed into the bathroom and tried to pee. Another code word, I wasn’t mentally prepared for this. The iPhone vibrated. For the first time since I picked it, it rang. The caller ID read dragon. I picked
‘Who is this?’, he went on, ‘and what are you doing with illegal’s phone. The voice on the other end of the phone was deep and husky. This was no gentleman. I instantly regretted picking the call. How did dey discover so soon that I wasn’t illegal? I was in real trouble now.
‘I…I picked the phone on the floor,’ I stuttered
‘Where is the money?’
‘Which money?’ I said, apologetically
‘Young man, you do not want to mess with scorpion. Just return the money and go back to your ordinary life. We will take care of the courier’.
I looked at the money lying on the floor. It hadn’t spent twenty four hours with me and now, scorpion wanted it. I had to give it back. It wasn’t mine to begin with and I didn’t want to die. I picked up each bundle and took two notes out. I couldn’t return it all. I deserved a little for my effort. If I hadn’t picked the phone, the courier or rival squad would have gotten the money. The four thousand dollars was my reward and I had earned every penny. I carefully packed the rest and put it back in the bacco bag. I folded the bag and kept it behind my cupboard. I picked up the paper I had started listing my investment strategies on and squeezed it. Another crushed dream.
I went back to my window. The courier was standing by his car and waiting. I wondered what he was waiting for. I wished dragon could appear immediately. I was waiting for his call. I was ready to return his money and phone. He called back.
‘I’m on my way to dynasty lodge. About fifteen minutes out. Lay low, I will take care of the courier.’
‘Thank you sir. God bless you and family,’ I replied hastily
‘Know this son, if you decide to play smart, I would not hesitate to end you’ he ended the call.
Play smart ke, I was done being smart. This street life wasn’t for me. The likes of Dafe could handle it well. I was book smart and that was okay for me. The pressure gotten from reading and writing was nothing compared to the pressure derived from trying to remain alive. God, pls, just get me out of this alive. I promise never to pick something that doesn’t belong to me again. I looked at the courier again. He was still standing by his car. I smiled to myself. He didn’t know what was coming to him. A taxi pulled up and he got up and walked towards the taxi. I looked at the taxi properly, it was Ifeoma that got out.
I stopped smiling instantly and reached for my phone. I tried calling ifeoma. I had totally forgotten about her. Her phone was ringing and she wouldn’t pick. She was talking to the courier and pointing to my room. Holy shit! This is what you get from watching too much nollywood movies. How could you lead a stranger to your apartment? It was textbook Hollywood stuff. If we survived this, I had to ban her from watching them.
I picked the IPhone and texted dragon
PLS HURRY, COURIER AT MY DOORSTEP. FLAT 6B. HE HAS MY GIRLFRIEND.
The response was quick
ALMOST THERE. BUT NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, DO NOT HAND OVER THE MONEY. IF YOU DO, YOU WOULD BOTH BE DEAD ANYWAYS.
It is often said that the grasshopper that runs in the the midst of fowls, ends up in the land of the spirits. What had I gotten Ifeoma into? The last text knocked me down both spiritually and physically. Then I heard them walk to my doorstep. Ifeoma’s key rustling as she tried to open the door. I looked up as they walked in. He had a gun to her head. He was smiling now.
‘Hello Steve Alpha, where is the Money?’
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DANCE WITH FIRE
The sound of his voice caused me to involuntary pee on myself. I looked at the gun held to ifeoma’s head and I realised this was my first time of seeing a real gun outside the movies. Ifeoma was sobbing softly. The regret in her eyes outshone her skin which had just been to a spa. I looked at the courier and pleaded for her life
‘Shut up,’ his voice boomed
‘I’m giving you ten minutes to bring that money or else, I shoot her, and then you,’
‘Sir please, the money is not here’, I tried to stall him a little. I had learnt that from the numerous Hollywood movies I had seen. I hoped dragon was true to his words. There was no point stalling the courier if he wouldn’t turn up.
‘You think I’m stupid?’ He went on, ‘I followed you and was with you all through the way. That money is in this house. Don’t make me shoot her for it’.
‘Sammy, pls give him the money. Please’, ifeoma spoke up for the first time.
Hearing her voice almost moved me to cupboard housing the money. I had to stop myself. She wouldn’t understand. It was better to get shot by the courier than having to worry about dragon and scorpion.
‘I dropped the money under the staircase, it’s not in this room. Give me a minute to go and get it sir.’ I pleaded with the courier.
His hand moved in a flash and he hit the gun across ifeoma’s head. She slumped as soon as the gun connected with her head and I screamed simultaneously. He was doing this to pass a message across and I got the message loud and clear. He would us both and not bat an eyelid. I rushed to where ifeoma had slumped and willed her to open her eyes. Only the continuous rise of her chest convinced me that she was still alive. I bent down to kiss her head and apologise for putting her in this situation. The courier entered the kitchen and started searching for the package himself.
My door creaked open a little. I had a little rush of hope. Dragon was here to save me. The door didn’t blast open as I would have expected. I looked closer, it was Dafe. I sighed. He saw ifeoma lying on the floor and signalled he was coming. I knew he had run away. I just hoped he had the common sense to do what I should have done since I got the phone; inform the police. The courier came out from the kitchen. The money wasn’t there. He should have known, I couldn’t have kept it there. He came to where I was and pulled me up. I received a slap for my troubles.
‘This is the last time I would ask you this. Where is the fucking money, you fraud?’
I couldn’t hold out any longer. The more time I wasted, the sooner ifeoma would recover, only to be actually shot. As I slowly lifted my arm to point at the cupboard that housed the money, my door finally burst open. Dragon had come through. There was bound to be a gun fight. I immediately dived for cover. I looked up and noticed ifeoma wasn’t secured properly. I crawled up to where she was and lay over her and I used my blanket to cover us both.
The gun fire exchange didn’t last long. A minute later, someone kicked the blanket off me. I looked around. My tv had taken a bullet. My wardrobe was littered with bullet casings. I saw the courier, dead in the kitchen. I tried to stand up. That was when I noticed my leg was covered in blood. I screamed. I had been shot.
Dragon walked up to me. He looked nothing like a criminal in person. He took a look at my leg.
‘You will live’, he announced ‘now where’s the money?’
I pointed to the cupboard. He asked one of his goons to get it. The goon brought out the bag and poured the contents on the bed. Dragon said something and I didn’t hear him well. I was feeling faint. I had lost alot of blood. But Dragon wasn’t in the mood. He pressed my gun shot wound. The pain jerked my eyes open
‘Hope it’s complete?’, he asked
‘No sir’, I replied
I reached into my trouser asked and brought out the 4000 thousand dollars and handed it over.
He took it and asked the guys standing outside to carry the courier’s dead body. He picked up the bacco bag and loaded the money inside. I remembered the five hundred dollars I removed yesterday. I told dragon about it and he smiled.
‘Dancing with fire is bad for those who burn themselves. For the rest of us, it’s a great pleasure. I hope I do not see you again. Stay safe’.
He got up and left. He didn’t shoot me. I looked at ifeoma, she had woken up. She got up and held her head. It was bleeding too. I threw her my phone.
‘Call Okechukwu’, I whispered and then I passed out.
NB: a mighty thanks to those that started and ended this series with me. As usual, your commendations and criticisms would be appreciated in the comment section.
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Written by pharm nayna Esione